Susan Mar­cus Bends the Rules

Jane Cut­ler
  • Review
September 4, 2014

Halfway through 1943, Susan Marcus’s father los­es his job in the Bronx, NYC, and finds a new one halfway across the coun­try. It’s all the fault of the stu­pid war, thinks Susan — although once in Mis­souri, it’s hard to even remem­ber there’s a war going on. Instead, Susan finds her­self think­ing about the Jim Crow laws that still exist in her new town, and the prej­u­dice that she wit­ness­es against not just blacks, but also against Jews, Japan­ese, and New York­ers. Break­ing the rules would get her in big trou­ble, Susan knows, but maybe she can fig­ure out a way to bend them a lit­tle. Togeth­er with her new friends, Loret­ta (the daugh­ter of a black jan­i­tor), Mar­lene, and Marlene’s younger sis­ter, Liz, she plans a rule-bend­ing out­ing (noth­ing that’s techni­cally against the law) involv­ing an inte­grat­ed bus ride and lunch in a Chi­nese restau­rant that’s being boy­cotted by Japan­ese-hat­ing towns­peo­ple. This com­ing-of-age sto­ry ap­propriately, and in the best sense, has an old-fash­ioned feel. Noth­ing huge hap­pens, oth­er than the lit­tle bit of empow­er­ment earned by a prin­ci­pled fifth grade girl. Though the top­ic is dif­fi­cult, the sto­ry is qui­et and gen­tle — but no less com­pelling for its lack of stridency. 

Rec­om­mend­ed for ages 8 – 12.

Discussion Questions